By Teresa Barnett, Executive Director – Community Resources for Science
On a recent sunny morning, a gaggle of excited six year olds eagerly peered through the window of their Oakland classroom, watching a team of a dozen Clorox summer interns and employees set up stations with bubbling dry ice, spinning bicycle tires, magnets and more.
When the eager Kindergarteners entered the makeshift science lab, their eyes widened in amazement.
They were the first of more than 150 students — every class at Oakland’s Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary summer school program — who would pass through the lab that day. They delighted in exploring the various stations, sharing observations and surprised smiles as they learned about science with Clorox employee volunteers.
The value of volunteers
CRS is a 20-year-old, independent nonprofit serving schools in Oakland and the East Bay with a mission to connect teachers and students with scientists and resources in the community. STEM professionals, including Clorox employees, are essential to our programs bringing science to life for young students and their teachers. Our STEM volunteers directly engage 15,000 East Bay K-6 grade students in exciting learning activities each year.
We nominated Clorox Company for the San Francisco Business Times Corporate Philanthropy Summit “Beyond the Check” award for the many ways Clorox works with community partners to highlight the science all around us in everyday life, and to inspire the next generation of scientists, inventors, and problem solvers.
Clorox is a great partner because it already has an internal Clorox Employee Science Education program. We work directly with its leaders, Elisa Calimano (who volunteered with CRS while a graduate student at U.C. Berkeley) and Annie Ragusa, who connect Clorox employees with our CRS in-school program, Bay Area Scientists in Schools.
Each year, Clorox employees visit many Oakland elementary school classrooms, providing hundreds of Oakland students the chance to meet and learn from diverse, enthusiastic, “real” scientists. Clorox team members from Latin America even deliver lessons to Spanish-language classrooms.
In-class presentations have big impacts, particularly at schools serving low-income and under-represented communities where students lack access to science enrichment and role models.
Here’s what one teacher said after a Clorox team visit:
“These visits make the students feel valued. They see that someone cares enough to share their expertise and perspective. Career scientists show students their own unique path from becoming interested in science to their current areas of study or work. CRS engages my students in hands-on activities that my students love and learn from. My students are always excited to have guests come in to teach us science. The guest lessons also help to reenergize my teaching.”
Giving, and receiving
The giving is not a one-way street.
Our volunteers enjoy using their professional skills to give back to the community. They build stronger bonds with colleagues and develop skills in communicating with nonscientists about science and engineering.
And that’s not the only way Clorox employees bring their passion for STEM into the community each year. They also:
- Participate in annual events for Oakland students
- Engage families in fun interactive science at the Bay Area Science Festival at AT&T Park, attended by over 30,000 people
- Host an annual onsite National Lab Day event to recruit more Clorox employees to participate in STEM education outreach
- Donate as individuals, which Clorox matches, to help bolster up the slim budget of nonprofits like CRS
- Serve on our Advisory Council on Elementary Education
- And, to top it all off, they even hold a bake sale and donate the proceeds to nonprofits like ours. Cookies for science — now that’s something we can all support!
We are grateful for the many ways Clorox is a model of community engagement, with support for our organization — and many others — that goes way “Beyond the Check.”